Ford’s dominance of the UK’s light commercial sector is little short of astonishing. 

Market leader for a staggering 55 years, its product range has appealed to countless thousands of businesses over the decades. While the word ‘iconic’ is continually overused, there is no denying that the Transit has achieved this status.

To the quality of Ford’s products can be added the strength of its dealer network, used values to die for, top-notch marketing and in recent years an eagerness to embrace zero-emission technology; and the benefits it can bring.

As commercial vehicle director, Ford of Britain, Mandy Dean has worked unceasingly to ensure that the big blue oval remains on top.  Her unstinting efforts have catapulted her into the What Van? Hall of Fame.

Dean graduated from the University of East London with a bachelor’s degree in business studies and went on to earn a master’s degree in business administration and management. 

Throughout a Ford career spanning more than 25 years she has immersed herself in the business with roles in sales, programming, marketing, planning, dealer communications and brand management. She became Ford of Britain marketing director in 2019. 

With her background, and a skill set to match, she was subsequently tasked with the responsibility of sustaining and growing Ford’s commercial vehicle market leadership in the UK and Ireland. She was appointed commercial vehicle director in 2020.

Dean steered the commercial vehicle arm of the business through the Covid-19 pandemic, a time which saw so much of the population rely on Fords used by key workers up and down the country. 

To support the unprecedented changes in the way vehicles were used during the crisis, she expanded Ford’s fleet of mobile service vans to deliver on-site maintenance for customers.
She also expanded the portfolio of converted vehicles available to vitally-important service providers such as the ambulance fleets and the supermarket chains.

Dean has played a crucial role in overseeing the UK implementation of Ford Pro, a new global business dedicated to delivering solutions to commercial customers of all sizes. It embraces vehicles, conversions, software, electric van charging, financing and servicing.

She has also launched E-Transit, Ford’s first fully-electric Transit, which now accounts for more than 10% of all Transit sales. It is also What Van? Van of the Year for 2023.

Under Dean’s transformational leadership Transit Custom had retained its status as the UK’s best-selling vehicle at the time of writing for the second year in a row, outselling even the best-selling cars. E-Transit Custom will go into production in late 2023 with an estimated range between recharges of over 230 miles.

Ford now takes more than 65% of the fleet and retail pick-up market thanks to Ranger. 

The range-topping Ranger Platinum double-cab 4×4 was unveiled at the end of 2022, with a 240hp 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel engine, a ten-speed automatic transmission, a leather-trimmed interior and eye-catching exterior detailing. A full digital cluster replaces traditional gauges ahead of the driver.

Deliveries are expected from late spring onwards and the newcomer sits on 20in machine-faced alloy wheels.

What Van? interviewed the always-impressive Dean at the Commercial Vehicle Show at Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre last May where she emerged as a firm advocate of battery-electric technology. 

She is certain that it will appeal to local small business people such as carpenters, plasterers and plumbers just as much as it does to fleets, and that range between recharges is unlikely to be a major issue. “Remember that the average daily journey for a van is 69 miles,” she says.

Nor need operators fear that their vehicle’s battery will fail unexpectedly, landing them with an eye-popping invoice for a replacement. “We warrant our batteries for eight years/100,000 miles,” she observes.

Ford is cementing well-publicised links with Volkswagen, which means both companies’ light commercials will increasingly share the same fundamental design. It is a phenomenon already writ large by Stellantis, with vans bearing the Citroen, Fiat Professional, Peugeot and Vauxhall badges growing ever-more similar.

There is an important distinction that should be drawn however, Dean insists. 

While Stellantis is the owner of all these brands, the relationship between Ford and VW is a strategic alliance, she points out. “That’s very different, and Fords will continue to retain their Ford DNA,” Dean stresses.

“They will still look like Fords.”